In the modest surroundings of Tumu in the Upper West Region, an enterprising young man has actualised an ambitious dream that now directly employs nearly 100 youth in a $2 million agriculture processing venture.
Kedan Limited, as it stands today, is the product of 41-year-old Eric Dankwa Kissi’s adventure into the feared terrain of agricultural production and processing.
What started as a maize farming and trading business received a breakthrough when he won $2 million Challenge Fund from the West African Food Market which was competed for by business concerns from Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger.
But, among many factors, the hard evidence of the company’s ability to co-finance the $2 million project plus a solid demonstration of innovative ideas proving that Kedan Limited could employ hordes of youth eventually tilted the highly competitive contest in its favour.
The demands on winning the fund were that Kedan Limited must work with at least 2,000 farmers, cultivate at least 4,000 acres of maize across two years, set up the processing plant, and do cross-border trade.
Start of production
At the start of production in February this year, the company had exceeded some of those demands, notable among them being the improved specifications of the factory capacity.
The factory processes 30 tonnes (600 pieces of 50kg bags) of maize per day into maize grates, maize floor, fortified maize meal, and maize bran for poultry and other animal feed.
“In our production, no small part of a grain of maize goes waste,” Dankwa Kissi told Daily Graphic. “The fortified maize meal is quality food in terms of nutrition to check malnutrition among babies and growing children.”
It also supports local maize farmers with relevant inputs, including weedicides and pesticides and fertilisers, in addition to extension services to improve yield and quality.
Chain of contracts
With a chain of contracts flowing in from various directions for supply of different processed maize products, Kedan Limited appears to have run ahead of its infant age in a market that still looks hardly explored and exploited.
It is a risk-defying journey into the world of economic attainment, ignited by youthful enthusiasm and an entrepreneurial orientation instilled by a university first degree in agriculture and a Master’s degree in business administration, finance option.
It was born out of a sacrifice that started in 2008 when he quit the comfort zone of formal employment with a business concern in Ghana’s rich cocoa sector to pursue a second degree at the school of business at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
“It was a sacrifice that brought me very challenging moments in life after I quit a relatively good job and went to school full time to improve myself because I had the ambition of setting up a business of my own in the future,” he said.
And as he walked through the one-acre yard of the factory, Dankwa Kissi beamed with a smile – and perhaps pride – at the fulfilling spectacle of a viable venture, a treasure that has transformed ambition into reality.
It is an imposing edifice on the outskirts of Tumu, fitted with an aluminium craft that collects and processes maize to required specification of an electronic system.
“This is not the ultimate target; the ambition is to create an employment avenue for as many youth as possible through a viable economic venture that employs innovative ways of producing and processing agricultural produce,” he said.
He graduated from KNUST in 2010, and mobilised energy and resources for the 2014 take-off of the farm and maize buying business as he returned to the neighbourhood of his mother’s hometown.
Some workers at the plant.
In 2014, Kedan Limited entered into the farming business, supplying farm input credit to farmers in the Sissala areas, Danquah Kissi said. The company then received a share of the harvest at an agreed ratio with the farmers as payment, and sometimes bought whatever extra quantity the farmers were willing to sell at the market value.
Burden of marketing
As many farmers saw the burden of marketing of their produce lifted off, the numbers of farmers willing to subscribe to the company’s offer multiplied. As a direct consequence, it also increased the risk of Kedan Limited’s investment.
In the course of time, some partner farmers failed to pay for their receipts of inputs.
He admitted that things have changed as he the company made 94 per cent recovery on its investments of 2017 at the farms.
“It has been a few years of real hard work,” he said. “I had to employ every energy source I could summon and every idea I dreamt about.”
Kedan Limited is a wholely Ghanaian-owned agribusiness concern that provides consumer services, trade services, market information and trade brokerage, and farm services – which include providing farm input credit.
It also provides pre- and post-harvest services, including warehouse services, to farmers.
Perhaps at the heart of this impressively encouraging story is the company’s 200-acre maize farm which was set up as the base of a future processing plant.
The 200-acre maize farm in Tumu employs over 20 hands, and stocks the warehouse from where sales were made to various markets in the south of Ghana.
It appears to have been a future-looking investment that would now feeds the processing plant to adde value to increase profit.
“I call myself a trained farmer, so I am very much in my territory,” Dankwa Kissi, a product of St Francis Xavier Minor Seminary Senior High School in Wa, said. “Things can only improve.”
And as both young men and young women walk through the gates daily in search of jobs and farmers walk in to register with the company, they tell how a private man’s drive – rather than politics or support from a politician – opens the doors of development and economic freedom for others.